October 1

October 1

St Theresa of Lisieux

There is nothing to say that saints have to live long and arduous lives; hagiographies are full of the tales of young people who have been canonized for flashes of sanctitude or a single action. Few saints of tender years can have had so great an influence as this French woman who died at the age of 24 after a long battle with tuberculosis.

Marie-Françoise-Thérèse Martin (1873-97) was born into a pious middle-class family in northwestern France and decided at an early age she wished to be a nun, a resolve that strengthened when she experienced a vision of the Virgin. At 15 she entered the Discalced (Shoeless or Barefoot) Carmelites, a contemplative order of cloistered women with a house at Lisieux, Normandy which her sisters had already joined. She took the religious name Theresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. The rest of her short life she spent inside the walls of her convent, praying, serving and writing.

Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.

It is through her exposition of “the little way” that made Theresa famous, winning her sainthood after her death and the title Doctor of the Church. In her poetry and her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, Theresa advocated a life of child-like trust and small loving actions. She is the patroness of African missions, those suffering from AIDS or tuberculosis, air crews and florists.

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